On World Poetry Day, we are honored to feature poems by Post-9/11 veterans and caregivers. These poems are raw emotions about the experience the authors have faced either while at war and/or life after they or their spouse have returned home.

 

“And then I cried”

By: Kevin Wallace, USAF (Ret)

In my chest there’s warped, black, blood-soaked soul

In my throat there’s hoarseness, inability to articulate truth

Each day I tell myself that I’ll tell myself each day

Every second we’re reminded sun burns skin

Water pollutes the body

Never, EVER cry

In my chest lies reasons to die, reasons to live, no energy to ask why

In my chest lungs shut down, depression sets in, I grow

I really don’t give a fuck!

In my fists there are cameras, on ready to freeze your suffering.

Cheese!

Climb through the window of my ribs, see a warped, black, blood-soaked soul

When you hear the shutter click, death sadly follows

Put your ear to my pulse

Do you hear my pulse wishing it could feel your ear?

They allow me no words, so watch as the venom dissolves my teeth

If you could taste the venom, it would taste like God’s sky

Like puffs of shit-flavored sarcasm with a deteriorating filter

That’s right! Drag your tongue across my eyes and into my brain

You’ll find the bullet riddled bodies of my brothers

I want to go back to the day I died and die one more day

I want to be

I want to be again

And then I cried

 

NIGHTMARES

By George R. Gutierrez

Screaming

Yelling
Crying
Begging
For a way out

Praying
Shouting
Believing
Knowing
It’s all not real

It’s not you
It’s not here
It’s not killing you
When you’re dreaming

Everything is real
Everything is imaginary
Just tell yourself that
Before you die

Your heart
Pounds
You lungs
Hurt
Your throat
Sore
From suppressed screams

You claw
You climb
You struggle
To leave

It’s all pretend
It’s all real
It’s all here
Trapping you inside

WAKE UP!
WAKE UP NOW!
Before you fall
Into darkness

They have you
It has you
You’re gone
Lost
Forever

It all makes sense
It’s all confusing
You close your eyes
Too bad they’re already shut

The heart in your chest
Threatens to escape
The lungs behind your ribs
Demand to explode
The mind behind your eyes
Knows the truth

It’s real
It’s here
You’re here
There’s no escape

No door
To open
No heels
To click
No magic word
To make it all go away

Everything is real
When it’s all an illusion
Everything is happening
When it’s never occurred at all
Everything here
Is you

You demand a way
You demand a hope
You demand a path
From this madness

Love,
I can help

Love,
I can save you

Love,
It’s so simple.

Open your eyes

 

Caregiver I don’t want to continue…

By: AKae ’16

Fighting for my life
Fighting with my family and friends
Fighting with myself
Fighting with these ghosts
Fighting to understand
Fighting to be understood
Fighting just to fight
To fight, period.

I’m tired.

So I’ll stop…

Fighting for my life
Fighting with my family and friends
Fighting with myself
Fighting with these ghosts
Fighting to understand
Fighting to be understood
Fighting just to fight
Fighting, period.

But, not like you think

I’ll start…
Living this life
Loving my family and friends
Learning my new self
Letting the ghosts rest
To understand
And it’ll be understood
Life is about living
Living; because I can

 

Caregiver: Lived

By C.Saffron

There is no need to tell us how lucky we are,

As if we are somehow, unaware of our good fortune.

We are reminded every holiday, as his ghosts,

are seated at the table with us,

sopping up his guilt and fear of joy, like gravy with bread

their presence unavoidable.

We try to ignore the specters of those who never returned,

but every morning they greet us like dismal sentinels upon our waking.

The stealthy shadows of injury and loss follow our every move

lurking around corners and popping out like jack in the box,

when we aren’t prepared for their lurid faces.

In every discussion, our burden dismissed, by well meaning souls,

who fail to see how we must always acknowledge our undeserved bounty  and wrestle with grief.

The cliche reminders, that it could be worse,

as if, this is not enough to carry.

Who writes a requiem for the living, for those that travel through life with their wraith?

And who writes the eulogies to be spoken over the graveyards of our dreams,

as we attempt to cobble together an existence in the aftermath of destruction?

What allowances are made for mourning that is ever evolving?

Within his valorous heart there is the epic struggle, to allow himself to live,

And not become the eternal guest at a feast of  the living damned.